"From the Pulpit" - June 12th, 2022 Holy Trinity
John 16:12-15 [Jesus said,] 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ. Amen.
You likely would have to have lived in or near Philadelphia to completely get the nuanced description of what many of us know as snow cones, or a frosty, what 7-11 used to call...a Slurpee. In Philadelphia, they call it “wudder ice”, or water ice. Getting the picture now? Right. It's a paper cup filled shaved ice, with a sugary and colored flavoring added to it. And you sort of eat this colored ice confection…often at the risk of getting brain freeze. Ouch! You know. But…they’re so good on a hot day…it’s almost worth it.
There's even a pretty big business in the Philadelphia region called Rita's Water Ice, that’s expanded beyond the Philly area. It's a uniquely Philadelphia-based business that offers customers lots and lots of...well, water ice. Snow cones, and other hot, summer day treats. I've had my share of wudder ice over the years...as they affectionately say in Philly. But I live in south Florida now, and even though I still see signs for snow cones around, it's just not the same thing. I’ll bet that over the years, you’ve had something like wudder ice, or maybe even Rita’s delectable treat itself, if you were in the area.
Anyhow, at our weekly bible text study group the other day, as we were going over the lessons for Holy Trinity Sunday, which is this coming Sunday, I referenced Living Lord’s founding pastor, Pastor Bill Wolfe, who was in the pulpit for nearly 60 years, and I expressed how awe I am of how he and other clergy would have handled the text for this Sunday, preaching for years on the Holy Trinity. Imagine having to come up with over 50 sermons on the Holy Trinity over the years, while keeping the message fresh, interesting, engaging, theologically sound, and meaningful. That's the challenge for the preacher this day in the church year - to try to convey meaning and clarity to something that is really indescribable - the Trinity itself. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
How do we convey meaning to something that is so hard to describe with any degree of clarity? Thus the title of this little vignette. Wudder ice. Or...water ice. You see, one of the tried and true images many of us in the pulpit have used to convey the meaning of the Trinity over the years is the image of water. Water, of course, can be water, but it can also be steam, and...well...ice. One thing, but in three forms if you will. You know the analogy.
And yet, somehow, even this image, while a decent attempt to describe the Trinity...often compartmentalizes the Trinity. Each "state" of water is unique, and different. And one can never be the other. Steam, for example, is never ice...and vice versa. And that's where the analogy of water in three forms breaks down for our purposes of describing the Trinity. There have been a million other similar (and mostly feeble) attempts to use similar imagery to describe the Holy Trinity, but no matter how well intended, they all seem to miss the mark a little bit. After all, who can really describe three things – distinct, yet the same? People, theologians, and others have tried for centuries, to little avail. It’s a daunting task for the preacher.
And so we come to our gospel for the day, from John's gospel, the 16th Chapter. Part of what theologians call Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse”, where he’s instructing his inner circle on what lay ahead of them as he prepares to leave them and go to the Father in Heaven. And in this discourse, he reminds them that they won’t be alone or abandoned, and that when the “sprit of truth” comes, he will guide them into all the truth. He further reminds his disciples that “all that the Father has is mine”. Not quite a doctrinal statement mind you, but it’s John’s somewhat foggy attempt to clarify to the disciples that something good is going to come from his leaving them. In last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus refers to this “spirit of truth” as the Advocate…the Holy Spirit.
So, I’m not going to try to break into new territory by claiming that I’ve found the perfect description of the Trinity. I wasn’t born yesterday. But, I do come down on the description of the Trinity as one of relationship. Of community. Mutuality. And…mystery. The harmony of the divine working together as one. In our broken and fractured world, where there is little unity of any kind, we can only imagine what this divine unity might look like.
I particularly love our first reading today…from the 8th chapter of Proverbs. This is the third of three creation stories in the bible – the first two being in Genesis 1 – creation in 7 days, with each day of creation, something new is added to complete God’s perfect creation. And the second creation story, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, when God creates Adam out of the dust of the ground, and sees that it’s not good for man to be alone. And so Eve is created out of the rib of Adam. Community. Mutuality. Harmony in creation. Intimacy even.
And we hear in Proverbs 8, the third creation story. Sophia in the Greek. Wisdom. Wisdom was there at creation, before the beginning of the earth…when there were no depths…no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, Wisdom was there. God, acts, in community.
And I believe in the same way, we are created to be in community. To, as St. Paul would say, work together for good. If we want to understand the Trinity, we need look no further than ourselves, and our efforts, however futile, to be in community with one another. To grieve together. To share joy together. To worship together. To live, and play, and struggle…together.
You know, last week, at Pentecost, the colors in the church were red, symbolizing the fire and power of the Holy Spirit. The going out into the world of the Spirit, lighting on people of different nations and cultures, uniting them in one common language and vision. Community. Mutuality.
And this week, that red in the church is replaced by white paraments. White, the blending together of all the colors of the rainbow, where each color lends its unique nature to create the color white. A color in which no one color has more importance over another, but each blends together in mutuality, to form this whole, if you will. It’s a multi-colored palette of sorts, that together, make up something beautiful, even it if isn’t always perfect. This is the working of the Holy Trinity as I see it. With Christ himself at the center of it all.
The Holy Trinity. It’s not water…it’s not steam…it’s not ice…wudder ice if you will. It is all three together – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Community. Mutuality. Relationship. Mystery…for those of us who walk as yet by faith.
If there was ever a time in human history where things like community…mutuality…relationship…working together for good were needed…it certainly is now.
We prayerfully invoke the Holy Spirit to blow through us…through our church…through our working in the world, to bring a new Shalom here…and now, as we pray to the Triune God who creates and blesses us all.
May God the Father…Son…and Holy Spirit…this divine community…bless you now and forever as we live into community ourselves, being the body of Christ until he comes again. Amen.
"Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty"
"Come Thou Almighty King"
Let's Chat in the comments below...
How do you describe our Trinitarian God?
How do you describe our three-in-one and yet one-in-three God?
How do you see God in three persons?